Canned peaches are just the best thing. I remember the first time I saw them—note I said saw and not ate—I was seven and still lived in the Philippines. Though I remember a mostly fun childhood I was also aware that maybe we didn’t have as much as others. I say ‘maybe’ because as a kid as long as you have enough of the basics and it’s all you’ve ever known you don’t really think much about your station in life. I also say ‘maybe’ because that feeling of being deprived and not having enough lurks about every now and again. Said feeling crept in when I first saw a cousin eating forkfuls of the fifteen-ounce Del Monte peaches straight out of the can, finished every slice then tipped the can into his mouth and drank the syrup. He and I sat in stony silence while he slurped every drop and I watched.
I make this awesome peach cobbler every time with canned peaches, partly because canned peaches are a reminder of that childhood feeling of wanting and not having and that in this country, as long as you work hard the fifteeen-ounce Del Monte canned peaches are within reach. That and peeling, par boiling and removing the pit from fresh peaches are way too many extra steps for me.
2 15 oz cans cling peaches with syrup
1/2 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup flour
1 cup milk
2 tsp baking powder
Turbinado sugar (optional)*
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and pour into a 9×12 baking pan. Pour in 2 cans of peaches, syrup and all. Mix sugar, flour, baking powder and spread over the peaches. You can do this in one of two ways. You can either pour the batter and spread it over the peaches with an offset spatula. Or you can use an ice cream scoop and scoop it over the entire pan of peaches.
Bake for about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the turbinado sugar over the cobbler which by now should be starting to brown. Return to the oven and bake another 15 minutes until cobbler is bubbly and golden brown.
*You don’t have to use the turbinado sugar but it gives the cobbler a nice sugary crunch when you bite into it. So maybe don’t make it optional.
2018 was a rough year. At times, it felt like it was devoid of kindness, basic human decency and just plain old decorum. And I’m just talking about 45. The news was increasingly hard to watch with Stormy Daniels, mass shootings, Supreme Court confirmation hearings–it was all too much.
Enter: Kare kare (pronounced car-eh car-eh). Kare kare is a Filipino dish of oxtail stew with an assortment of vegetables all braised in a peanut sauce and served with salty shrimp paste. Kare kare is above all else comfort food. It’s the culinary equivalent of a warm blanket, fuzzy slippers, and a hot toddy which means you can use a whole steaming platter of it just about now, while you watch the undoing of the Affordable Care Act and the events of the government shutdown unfold.
In my family, this is the dish that emerges from the kitchen in a giant dutch oven and arrives at the table, surrounded by relatives with plates in hand, almost salivating in amazement. Nothing I’ve ever cooked has ever received that kind of a reception, so after much texting and reassurance from Tito Boy, the best kare kare maker ever, I attempted this dish.
I made it in my Instant Pot which I procured from Amazon as a Black Friday deal from 2 years ago. Until recently, I had never used it because pressure cookers scare me. But the Instant Pot is great under pressure (ha!) and is a handy, versatile tool.
- 1 lb beef stew meat
- 1-2 lbs oxtail
- 2 Filipino or Chinese eggplant, sliced 1/2 inch long
- 1 bunch long beans
- 4 baby bok choy
- 1 cup peanut butter (creamy, never chunky)
- 3 cups beef broth
- 1 beef bouillion cube
- 1 tbsp. fish sauce
- 1 tbsp. annatto powder
- 1 medium-sized onion, sliced in wedges
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- shrimp paste
- salt and pepper
- vegetable oil
1. Select the ‘saute’ setting on your Instant Pot and brown the meats in one tbsp. of vegetable oil. When browned, set aside.
2. Saute onions and garlic until translucent. Deglaze the pot with 1 cup of beef broth and 1 tbsp. fish sauce. Let the broth boil and put back the meat in. Add 2 more cups of broth, or enough until the meat is submerged.
3. Close the lid of your Instant Pot and change the settings to ‘pressure cook/manual’ and ‘high’ for 35 minutes.
4. While waiting for the meat to cook, prepare your vegetables. Fry the eggplant, and blanch the bok choy and long beans.
5. When cooking is complete do a quick release, take out the meat and set aside.
6. Stir in the peanut butter.
7. Mix 1 tbsp of annatto powder with 2 tbsp of broth. Then add the broth/annato concoction into the pot and watch it turn into the beautiful orange color kare kare is known for. Annato is not optional, as other blogs will tell you. Trust.
8. Adjust the seasonings according to preference by adding fish sauce, salt and pepper.
9. Once you are satisfied with the taste and *consistency of the sauce, add the meat in. Stir in the vegetables.
10. Serve with hot rice and spicy shrimp paste on the side.
Super secret pro tip: Tito Boy mixes in a few teaspoons of salted shrimp paste in his famous kare kare.
A brief tutorial on shrimp paste from an Americanized Pinay (so take it with a grain of salty bagoong):
- The Tagalog word for shrimp paste is bagoong.
- Bagoong comes in a sauteed and raw version. For kare kare, use only the sauteed version. I don’t know why, it just tastes better.
- There are different brands but the Barrio Fiesta pictured below is the only one I use. It’s the only one Tito Boy uses too, so I’m assuming it’s the best.
- I prefer spicy bagoong to the salty as it gives the dish more of a kick.
- Bagoong is shockingly salty. Take a scant teaspoon–less than scant–top your kare kare with it and enjoy with hot rice.
I have a major crush on my Instant Pot, so much so that I’ve been secretly cheating on my other crush the Crock Pot. The Crock Pot is OK. It’s a little slow, makes you wait for it all day and it even forces you to brown your food in another pot. It’s no wonder the Instant Pot and I hit it off, well, instantly. You can brown in the sauté setting, take the toughest cut of meat and once it gets pressurized, you’re 35 minutes away from dinner.
The Instant Pot is the perfect vehicle for stewing and braising so I experimented with beef mechado, a rich and flavorful tomato based Filipino beef stew. The obsession with beef mechado started with my Mom who buys and freezes mechado by the pint from a nearby Filipino restaurant. At 6$ a pint, I thought I’d try to recreate this at home. Ever the resourceful Pinay mom, she even called the restaurant to find out the cut of beef they use and how they get the meat so tender. She learned that they pressure cooked the beef and instead of cutting the beef into chunks, beef stew style, they cut it in slices–so revolutionary! Kudos to Mom who’s been cracking life’s secrets all this time without ever having to Google.
- 4-5 lbs beef chuck roast, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 1/4 c calamansi or lemon juice
- 3/4 c Silver Swan soy sauce*
- 1 t sugar
- pepper, to taste
- 15-oz can tomato sauce
Marinate beef in lemon juice, sugar and soy sauce mixture at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain the beef and set aside the marinade, don’t throw away as you’ll be using this as the braising liquid. Oil the bottom of your Instant Pot and brown the beef in batches. Don’t worry about cooking it all the way through as you’ll be pressure cooking it to tender goodness. To your browned beef, add the tomato sauce and the marinade you set aside. Set your Instant Pot to Meat/Stew and pressure level to high pressure for 30 minutes.
- I added red bell pepper after I finished cooking the beef and pressure cooked it another 10 minutes. I thought that was too long as the beef totally fell apart. Some slices turned into shredded beef which I’m not crazy about. I prefer tender but still in tact beef slices so next time, I’d cut it down to 25 minutes for pressure cooking the beef and then an additional 10 minutes for bell pepper. Same rule applies if you wish to add potatoes.
- I cooked down the sauce for an even more concentrated tomatoey flavor by putting the Instant Pot on the sauté setting, high. That may have also contributed to the beef falling apart.
- You can substitute toyomansi, which is a Filipino say sauce mixed with calamansi juice, for soy sauce like I did the second time I made this. It was good, but it came out a little too tangy for me. Adding a little more sugar helps cut the tanginess.
- When choosing your chuck roast, pick one that’s a little more fatty with a lot of marbling throughout. That fat means juicy, moist flavor.
I am challenged by dough and crusts. I find dough in general intimidating because it demands precision, accurate measurements, kneading, rolling, cutting–it’s all too much for a casual baker like myself. Crusts are worse because they’re supposed to be buttery and flaky and don’t even get me started on that blind baking thing. In short, dough for me is the human equivalent of your catholic school nun and the crust, her wooden ruler.
So I get around all that anxiety by using ready made pie crust and making a crumble. A frozen pie crust is good to have around in your freezer for that easy pecan pie or peach pie you’d like to whip up at the last minute. My favorite is the Marie Callender brand, (RIP Marie Callender and your creamy artichoke chicken.) The crumble is for the crispy, sweet bites of buttery sugar to counteract the softness of the peaches.
Recipes I’ve found called for fresh peaches you have to par boil for a bit in order to peel the skin and then you still have to de-pit it. Once again, ain’t nobody got time for that. In this blog, we do shortcuts and shortcuts come in the form of canned peaches. You’re welcome.
- 1 9-inch pie shell
- 2 cans of peaches – 14 oz, drained
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- 3/4 cup white sugar
- 3/4 cup brown sugar
- 1 cup flour
- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 2 pinches salt
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
To make the crumble:
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together sugars, flour, ginger and salt. Add melted butter and stir until mixture comes together. Don’t be alarmed if the crumb topping starts to look like dough. Keep stirring until you can break it up into smaller pea-sized clumps.
To make the peach filling
In another bowl, toss the peach slices with the cornstarch and about ¾ cup of the crumble. Pour peaches into the pie crust.
Top the peaches with the rest of the crumble and if you don’t cover all the peaches, it’s all good. They’re like little rays of sunlight peeking through your crumble.
Place your pie pan on top of a baking sheet to avoid spillage in your oven and bake for 45-50 minutes or until filling is bubbly and topping is golden brown.
We said goodbye to my friend Helen a couple weeks ago by celebrating at a Senegalese restaurant, Bissap Baobab– a funky, vibrant spot that served West African food with bold flavors paired with refreshingly sweet yet tart tamarind based drinks.
Bissap Baobab is not unlike my friend Helen—funky, vibrant, refreshing, sweet and sometimes tart—but only when you irritate her.
Over the last few weeks, I’ve been thinking a lot about Helen. I admire her for so many reasons—her courageous spirit, her compassionate soul and most of all her strength of character. She’s a fierce tennis player, gifted artist and a nurse that is the best embodiment of nursing I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with and eventually befriending. As we were saying our final goodbye before her move to North Carolina—I whispered to her that after all the heartfelt speeches and tributes offered by her friends, what I didn’t get a chance to say was that Helen above all else was a badass.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I’m pairing this memory of my friend Helen with a cocktail I had that night, the Little Baobab. It was really a perfect complement to a perfect evening. I fell in love with it mostly because of the tart tamarind flavor. If you’ve never had tamarind, I suggest you Google it before you put it in your mouth. It’s unexpectedly sweet and tart and pulpy and it’s used mostly in Asian and Middle Eastern cooking. It is the base for the Little Baobab and nicely balances with the sweet passion fruit syrup.
So for you, my dear badass Helen, I raise a glass of Little Baobab.
3 oz Grey Goose vodka
3 oz coconut water
2 tsp tamarind paste*
2 pumps Torani passion fruit syrup
*I procured the tamarind paste from a friend but you can probably find it at a Mexican grocery store.
Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker. Shake it like the badass you are. Enjoy.